Friday, December 27, 2013

Room at the Inn

"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." - Luke 2:1-7

Sometimes, I think about what it would be like to have been the hypothetical innkeeper. I say hypothetical because I am assuming there were likely many places Mary and Joseph could have stayed, whether it be with family or at "the inn" or in a guest room.

Instead, Mary and Joseph wind up in who knows where really - a cave? a barn? - to give birth to her son.

Honestly, if a woman comes to your door who is nine months pregnant and thinks she might go into labour at any second, it seems a bit odd to be like, "Well... there's this cave over here with some animals where you can stay. And there's even this crunchy bed of hay to put your newborn in!"

Perhaps part of the reason they were turned away was because they were outcasts. Mary would be labelled similarly to how young mothers/"teenage pregnancies" are labelled today - they are irresponsible, dirty, bad influences, probably getting into more trouble.And so they are turned away - the innkeeper and the guests were not willing to give up their rooms for this couple. A baby out of wedlock?! - those heathens.

Perhaps another simpler reason is simply that they were too busy, too full. They were packed and another couple, especially one about to pop out another occupant, were just too much. It's not as if Mary glowed with angelic halos or Joseph was shining with holiness. They were a simple, plain couple, who were defined most simply by their love, devotion and faith in God.

But back to this innkeeper - think about this. Our hypothetical innkeeper had the opportunity to welcome the kind of the world, their Creator, into their home. But they turned them away and housed them in a manger.

It makes me pause, and wonder how many times I've turned away Jesus myself. Whether it be through being too busy, with a schedule too full, or by pre-judging someone on those societal or moral standards before truly getting to know them.

I think we can all learn a lesson from the innkeeper. Jesus comes in strange disguises. Most often in the ones that most offend us.

Listen for the knock at your door, and look anxiously for the opportunity to host Him.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Judgement and Insecurity

I face a constant battle with myself for perfection. 

There is a part of me that wants so badly to model herself after Jesus completely, to have his heart, to have this immense capacity to forgive, to love, to be gentle with the people who are harsh and unloving towards me. I want this so badly, and yet, I face myself - everyday - in the mirror and see the ways I fail in these departments over and over and over and over again. Especially in the judgement section.

And I have begun to recognize that my harshest judgements and criticisms of others largely come from the fears and insecurities I have within myself.

Appearance is a great example.

How often do we see someone with a different body type than us and immediately find a reason to cast judgement on them? 

Are they thinner than us? They must be snobs that spend all their time and money on organic food and exercising at the gym.

Are they fatter than us? They must be lazy and eating too much candy.

This is our judgement. But in reality, when we search deep within ourselves, we find that it is rather us with the problem - we are terrified and fearful of being judged by the people around us because of our appearance. Which is why there is this constant quest for consumerism and fashion, for fitting in, or losing weight, or being perfectly toned. 

We are insecure in our bodies, and unable to accept others for being exactly who they are. Which is all they need. All we need. 

And so, when I get angry, I need to ask myself why I am angry. Is it actually their comment or their attitude, or is it something in myself that causes me to react in the way I am? 

I remain responsible for however I respond, but being aware of what's causing me to want to respond in a certain way can help me address that insecurity and fill it in another way. If we want to love others better, we need to feel secure in ourselves. 

And perhaps that comes first from being fully aware of our acceptance in Christ.

But that's another conversation. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ain't My Home, by Marc Scibilia

It hit me really hard when my grandmother passed away this summer. She was my last grandparent, and the one to whom I had always been closest and bore the greatest resemblance, at least in appearance. She even said so herself on one of my visits when her dementia was worse than usual, and she pointed at a picture of me and claimed it was a photo of herself. ha - I take it as a complement. She was a foxy lady.

It's kind of an honour to think that a little bit of her spirit lives in me - and it would be a privilege to live out a life that equals the one she lived - one of gentleness, hospitality, perseverance and a great depth & strength of character, even when her health was failing and she was in pretty severe pain. Some of her last words were singing along to the hymns we sang together in the hospital.

A few days after she passed away, my family gathered together in northern Ontario, where she had raised my wonderful father and where my parents first met. We were fortunate enough to be staying on the water, and after a long day, I went out to the dock to watch the sunset. The ducks swam by and quacked at me suspiciously, and the sky glowed in a soft yellow hue that reflected off of the waves that softly lapped at the shore. It was a moment of surrender and a gift peace from God.

Eventually, my brother came out with his guitar, and started singing this song. Now when I hear it, I think of my grandmother. I think I will always miss the amazing woman she was in my life and in others', but I will also celebrate the fact that my beautiful grandmother is - in fact - home.


Been to Paris, I've been to Rome
Seen a little bit of the world that's known
But it seems no matter where I go
I know this world it ain't my home

I got keys to a house that's on loan
And keys to a car with rust and chrome
I got keys to things I'll never own
Cause I know this world it ain't my home

And you take me, so very close
But I can't cut down this thought that grows
that no matter where I rest or roam
I know this world it ain't my home

And sometimes it seems a far off dream
just in sight but out of reach
And I don't know where to go but I just keep going
cause I know this world it ain't my home

And you take me, so very close
But I can't cut down this thought that grows
that no matter where I rest or roam
I know this world it ain't my home

Maybe I can try to fall in love again
Find a little house with a picket fence
but you know that I'm a traveling man
to that distant country and that far off land

Oh and when my time is used and done
I will see that final setting sun
I'll leave everything I've ever known
and that house above it will be my home.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Learning how to die

"All along I thought I was learning how to take,How to bend, not how to break,How to laugh, not how to cry,But really, I've been learning how to die." - Jon Foreman


I sat in on a lecture at McMaster's Divinity School the other week. While the lecture was great, it was actually what the professor said afterwards to me in a passing conversation that stuck with me, and is still sticking to me. 

This beautiful, passionate professor and part-time preacher was talking about the former pastor at her current church, and how his wife and himself had both just switched into careers working in counselling and ministry in Afghanistan. While I didn't pry, she continued by debating how either one of this ministry power-couple would cope if the other one was killed for their work in Afghanistan. 

I looked at her a bit wide-eyed and surprised - this was not my original intent for the conversation - but since my face is pretty much an open book, she just looked at me and said, "I mean, of course there's a very likely risk that one of them will die doing the ministry work they're doing. And - of course - it's worth it." And then she continued as if she had said nothing at all that profound. 

And all I could do was stare, and ask myself how willing I would be to go, be a minister, and die for Jesus. I wasn't so thrilled at the thought. It pretty much scared the bee-geebees out of me. 

Which got me thinking why I would be so scared to do something like that. 

And really - not only that - but in so many aspects of my life. What have I been willing to give up - to give back to Jesus in recognition that it's all actually His and for Him - each and every day of my life?

As I've been processing through these thoughts, I've also been reading this fantastic book called, The Saint and the Sultan (Sidenote: I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in issues of peace and conflict, specifically those related to Christian-Muslim religious divisions.). 

As I've been reading through the story of Saint Francis' conversion, I see a story of youthful soul searching, of striving for the success, ambition, "honour values" of the world and then coming to this meeting-place, this complete and total shift caused by the choice to actively follow Jesus and his death.

St. Francis' death was a beautiful, daily one, where he gave up all of his possessions - so that no one could define his value by his earthly wealth. He embraced and served those sick with lepracy, and put himself at risk of also getting the disease in order to help this community of people. He made the choice to be different from his father and mother, and yet still love them as God's children. He put himself at risk of execution to try and stop the Crusades. 

It's a very beautiful and a very scary concept, at all the same time. It's one I want, that my heart desires and sees as pure, noble and praiseworthy, but one that is incredibly difficult to actually put into practice. 

I like how Jon Foreman puts it - we are "learning how to die." Life and faith are progressive. You learn more, you accept the knowledge, you make a choice to change and shift - or not to change and shift - , and then you act accordingly. And then you - again - learn something new. We are sure to make mistakes and stumble in our journey forward, but I think we will come out the other end so much more beautiful than we came in. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day & Love for Enemies

At 11 a.m., I said a prayer during the two minutes of silence for Remembrance Day. A prayer that God would forgive and heal our nation. That we would begin to see everyone - the soldiers who were lost, the people we killed, the victims of the Holocaust, the Nazis - everyone as children of God who were lost in a terrible war, not only of guns and bombs, but in the war of the mind.

Because before there was war, there were people who did not question the authorities. There were Christians who forgot what it meant when Jesus said "Take up your cross, and follow me." There was a church who forgot that Jesus, ruler of heaven and equal to God, gave up a kingdom to come to Earth, live among us, teach us, and then go to his very death - and called us to follow in His example. 

We lost focus. 

We forgot what it meant to love our neighbour. 

And so today, I remember. 

I remember the importance of keeping my focus on Jesus, not on what others tell me. 

I remember the importance of speaking up against hatred, against oppressors, against injustice.

I remember the importance of choosing to love, even when it means my own death.

I remember the devastation of war and the victims of the Holocaust, and vow to live a life that actively seeks out truth and love so that history does not repeat itself. 

I remember the "enemies" who died fighting for a country they also believed in, and how this very well could have been me if I had been born in a different time, in a different place, to a different family. And I remember the importance of questioning authorities and testing it against the life of Jesus. 

And finally, I choose to live my life in a way that shows it is always okay to die for a cause, but never okay to kill for one. 

In humility, even to death on a cross

It is an amazing thing to come across a concept in your life that seems so evident once you realize it, but that was not at all evident before. And it is here that I put forward my thesis:

Humility is – perhaps – the heart of Christianity.

Philippians 2 says “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourselves.”

I think I’ve read this verse a hundred times, but something hit me this time, in the full breadth of its implication. Because this book doesn’t end here – it goes on to talk about the humility of Christ (who did not see equality with God as something to be grasped, but humbled himself, even to death on a cross!).

And when I read this, and continue into the verse about “shining like stars” in a corrupt generation, it hits me.
That perhaps the key to faith is not in striving to be perfect, in getting everything right. Nor is it trying “not to be bad” or “a sinner.”

It is in humility. It is in putting aside "yourself," and taking the heart of a servant. It is in purposely choosing Jesus over the things in life that you want or desire. It is in letting go of everything you once felt was important, and saying the only thing that matters is Jesus.

And then trying to be “good” isn’t really that hard. If you approach everyone with the heart of humility, with the idea that “You matter more than me, and you are loved by Jesus no matter what,” then you come to them with a heart of love and a heart of equality and a heart of justice. You come to them in a broken state, and say, “Hello, I am broken, and forgive me if I’m wrong, but maybe you are too? There’s this guy named Jesus, and he took my life and made it into something worth living. I wonder if you’d like to meet Him too.”

But it will only happen if humility is at our core, if everyday we choose to die to ourselves & those desires that are not of God, instead putting Jesus first. To set aside the things that were in our "past life" before our rebirth through Jesus, and instead be those “shining stars” – a light in the darkness, a beacon of hope in the midst of a rather erratic, immoral and destructive place.

But we can never do this unless we first choose humility over selfishness.

I believe this is the answer to the majority of the problems facing the modern Church. And it is the way forward. An incredibly simple, yet incredibly difficult, path for us to take. 

It is time to reclaim the cross, and start dying. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Identity and the Postmodern Dilemma

Who am I is a difficult question to answer in a postmodern age.

First, the postmodernist believes that there is no truth, only what each person perceives to be true.

Second, if the postmodernist stumbles upon an identity crisis, she or he will not be able to ever figure out exactly who he or she is because there is not truth, only what she or he perceives to be true. 

In which case, we bring about problem three: He or she enters into a vicious cycle of deciding what she or he perceives to be true about her or himself (which is in constant flux because he or she also acknowledges that whatever truth they've decided on isn't actually true, just what they've decided to be true for the time being, and thus subject to change). 

And so they end up with nothing except, I am.

Lucky for them/us/me/not me/undecided, God said I AM. So if that's the only thing left after the postmodern identity crisis is the affirmation that, "I am," then perhaps I am simultaneously confirming the only thing I need to: that God is here. 

Note: I recognize the flaws in this argument, and am working out the kinks as you read. You are assured that I am 100 % positive I am absolutely confused and doubtful about most things in this argument, acknowledging the extraneous factors, stories, people, details of which I am not aware. And am searching for the truth in the midst of it.

I think it's Jesus.

And perhaps, this will be sufficient for right now.

**Side note: This post is meant to be a satirical commentary on society, postmodernism and - if I am completely honest - myself. Sometimes this doesn't come across in writing, so I am making it clear to you. - or am I? **

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Homeless at the feet of Lady Justice

Everyday, on my walk through the streets of Toronto to work, I walk beside businesspeople - dressed much the same as myself - and make my way to the downtown office. Each day, I see many of the same faces. Faces of those who walk beside me. Faces of those sleeping on the sidewalk below me. Faces of those sitting on a ledge somewhere in between.

There is a shortcut I take on my walk to the office. I dart off to the right of the main street and cut through the path beside the courthouse. I walk on a stone pathway, surrounded on both sides by two fountains symbolizing balance and justice. And then I walk through a small overhang, whose doors lead into the courts. Always, there are three people there. Either sleeping, or just having woken up. And then I keep walking and I see a statue of Lady Justice on the left of the other side of the overhang.

I always feel the weight of irony hit me.

Inside that courthouse, guilt is decided, sentences is laid, justice is said to be served. But right outside that very same courthouse, the very justice that this courthouse stands for is missing. What concept of balance or goodness has society given to the people sleeping on the sidewalk there? And what makes me so incredibly fortunate to be walking along this path, on the way to my office job in Toronto, while they sleep on the streets and struggle to get by?

Certainly, we are missing something when society itself is built in such a way that we feel some people merit their jobs more than others. That a person who grows up with a single mother in a low-income home without child support, in a neighbourhood grouped with similar children who all attend the same school and have the same teachers who must stretch themselves to meet these needs, and then try to access the same "socialization" into museums, books, and other places of cultural knowledge to try and get a job. There is no doubt that this person will struggle to get to my office job a great deal more than I have. What did anybody do for them, at this early part of their lives, to help them in their journey along the way? Yes, they may have some help, from churches, from youth groups, from support groups, from Kiwanis, from Big Brother and Big Sister groups - I applaud all of these initiatives, but it spurs a question of just how far justice needs to extend in our society before each person actually has the resources and the support and the knowledge and the love they require to reach their goals. It's not a level playing field.

Which further brings up the question of criminal justice and punishment itself. If a person grows up and experiences abuse, if they grow up in dire straights and steal to get money, if they grow up and find themselves in a gang to protect themselves from the violence in their neighbourhood, then where is the justice in punishing a person who is, in fact, themselves a victim?

In Thomas Moore's Utopia, he writes, "For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”

Everyday I walk past Lady Justice, I feel a bit queasy. But I appreciate my uneasiness too - let's start to think about how we can change our world, in a big way, in a small way, and make justice something that's more than the courts, and rather, something that starts at the core of who we are and extends into the way we live and support one another in our communities. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Times They Are A-Changin'

It's funny how at each stage of your life, there's never this easy realization that you're older. It's more of a push and pull - wanting to be older, wanting to stay young, wanting the responsibility, wanting to give it all up and hide.

Recently, I've been feeling ever-so-existentialist. Pondering why I am here, who I am, what carves out my identity and how others perceive me and how far I could go before that identity or perception of identity changes. And it all scares me. I sometimes feel like it's something I want to push all of these questions to the back of my head and never think about them ever again, but then there it goes again, popping right back into mind, making me question everything about myself.

Like... am I cool? What is cool? Do I have friends, or do they just say they are my friends, or do they only hang out with me because I'm friends with their friends, and are those friends even my friends, and if not them, then am I likeable at all? So I am unsure of who my friends are.

It continues into about every area of my life. If I was really good in school at this, and got my degree in this, and two minors in that and that, but then went to school for the other, then what am I actually good at? And if I like the one, but like the other, then what am I best at? So I am unsure of what my truest vocation is.

So someone else tells me to follow my heart. But what if my heart is indecisive? What if one thing brings me happiness, and another brings sadness but fulfillment? What if both fill me in different ways? And so my heart cannot guide every decision.

So someone else tells me to use my best judgment. But then I ask, based on what? My values? Okay - but how do I prioritize them, and what if there are a whole bunch of things that I count as values, and what if some things are only valuable if you approach them with an appropriate attitude? So rational thought - but pros and cons lists when making decisions can only go so far. And sometimes the rational choice isn't the choice that best fits a person who is equally built on emotion. So even my best judgment doesn't quite work out the way I want it to.

So now what?

I am left with only one thing, and it's Jesus. The only constant ever in my life.

And it's funny because even this one constant leaves me with questions - what does it mean to fully follow God? Does it mean giving up everything in my life? Am I doing enough right now for His kingdom, and if not, what should I be doing better? Underpinning all of that is this desire to get God to accept me, to fit in, to love me - which He totally already does, so I really don't need to stress so much. But I also think sometimes that it takes a lot of guts to fully devote your life to Christ, and I wonder over and over again if that's really what I've done, or whether I live my life for myself and hope that God will just help me get through it, rather than living my life for God and hoping that I will be used by God to bring people to His kingdom.

And perhaps this Christ-centered identity is best discovered in relationships with others, with the "Church" or people equally focused on Jesus. 

I often feel alone in a large group of people. Like I could carry on a conversation and never be heard. Or maybe a bit better, never understood. I've come to fully appreciate the friends who take the time to understand me, to get to know my heart and answer the questions that are underpinning my ever-wavering, ever-changing self and help me discover and appreciate a bit of who I am. We are all formed in a community, around people who shape us and form us, and while we have choices, we equally need these people in our lives to help us discover the important things in life. I think my biggest challenge is to pour into others the way certain people have poured into me, while also taking the time to figure out what exactly my constants look like over this next year.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Now I see but a dim reflection

Lately, I've been thinking more and more about what differentiates the Christian life from another. I've come across three factors thus far:

First, Jesus. This is the answer to every Sunday school question ever asked, and remains, to this day, the answer to the majority of questions Christians ask ourselves as adults, although perhaps in a more subtle way.

Second, the body of Christ. God made you and me just the way we are so that our strengths can build up other members of the church, and He made other members of the church to help bear with, smooth, and wear away at our own imperfections. As separate individuals, we are nothing but simple twiggy body parts, unable to function, survive, thrive, love, play, cry, laugh and do and be everything a body should do and be. We are all broken, but together, we make an ever so beautiful mess, one that takes the jagged edges of one and fits them with the jagged edges of another, and fills in the broken tile pieces with a bit of the first ingredient: Jesus (see, still the answer). All of us are here for a purpose.

And third, the church is a body meant for love. Love for God - who is both truth and love itself perfected - and love for others - God's imperfect but cherished children who are here with an immense purpose that they do not yet know. This might seem extremely simple, but let me affirm that it is perhaps the most challenging character arrangement for the Christian of all. We live in a culture built on success, one where status, income, and "success" mean everything. It's how we value each other, in this "meritocracy" of sorts. And the church brings this same arrangement to our own faith. We think people who are "good," who follow all the rules, that they know their stuff, that they are more important than the others. We take the standard of Christ and replace it with a comparison against what other people are doing and how much better we are. It's like we've all gone deaf and blind, and missed the whole point of the cross!! It is to show us that no one is better than another - that we are all sinners, that we all fall short of the glory of God, that it can never be earned. We are not God, we cannot earn our own salvation - if this is what we attempt, then we in essence are attempting to become our own little gods. And it's not healthy, it's not fun, it's not what God calls us to. We are called to love - that is it. To love God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength - or with such passion that every ounce of our being yearns to look more like Him, to glorify Him, to make Him happy and bring him honour - and to love others as we love ourselves - in an active pursuit and loving-kindness that looks on another and recognizes them as a brother and.or sister in Christ. Of same worth and value, who can challenge you and change you and who needs equal encouragement and challenging themselves. And this is a beautiful beautiful thing when it sees the light of day.

Let's meditate on 1 Corinthians 13 - memorize it, learn it, know it, live it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Life should be hopeful.
To live, this is the desire of every person,
Yet few have truly lived.

I claim to be different, an individual
But I follow the same patterns as the crowd
What is new, what is desirable

There is nothing new under the sun
And every pursuit comes to a seemingly fruitless end
Yet we exist at this place, at this time.

There is a reason.
But perhaps life is best lived blind.
For it is not the things we see that matter

It is the silent words
Banging on the ivory piano keys
a drowned scream...

In the chaos, there is an order
Unseen but existing
Like the breath before a speech

We search.
We seek.
We dream.

We act.

We live


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Recognizing my own value

I've had a number of conversations lately about the role of women in the church. While not always, what very often happens is that someone says that women should not teach in the church, I refute, and then they respond with 1 Timothy 2.

I'm not here to unleash anger, or frustration, or tell you so and so is wrong. Instead, I will bare my heart to you. And then let you decide how you feel about women teaching in the church.

I fell in love with God and Jesus and the Bible at a young age. I created strict discipline patterns for myself of reading the bible, of prayer, even of service. And no - it was not the genuine relationship I have with God now, based on my own knowledge of Him, His work in my life - both in the past and at this very moment, and how to pursue him while also recognizing and bearing my weaknesses before him. But it was as close to in love with God as my young middle school self could get. And so when my youth pastor asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said I wanted to be a pastor. And he sighed, and told me he didn't think that was a good idea. That I shouldn't do that.

I felt personally insulted. I wondered whether my faith wasn't strong enough, if I wasn't doing the right things, if I didn't have the leadership abilities to do it, if I wasn't a good enough speaker - there were so many things going through my head at the time, most of which were questions that just let me asking myself over and over and over why I wasn't good enough.

When my dad explained to me later that my youth pastor was referring to the ban on women teaching in the church, I sat in shock.

And you know what?

The exact same questions started to go through my head. I asked every single question I could to figure out what I didn't have as a women that maybe, just maybe, God could make an exception for. Perhaps I could get that one "thing" in some way or fashion. But as much as I searched, and I tried in every way to be the perfect church kid, I was still always a woman. I couldn't change that part of me. It was... a curse in some ways - I've never felt uncomfortable in my skin as a woman. I think it is a blessing and an honour, and that women add a great deal of needed qualities to the world. - but it was something I could never change about myself, even if I had wanted to.

It was at this young age that I asked almost every religious leader, every pastor, every women, every youth leader, why women couldn't teach. And every time they responded, I was never satisfied. I couldn't break this constant search for a way to be whatever it was that my youth pastor said I needed to be. And I tear myself apart, even today, trying to live up to whatever it is that these church men want me to be. And my standards are so much higher, because making one mistake in front of a man counts 100 x more in terms of why women shouldn't be pastors. So the tearing up never ends.

So what I have left is questions.

A pastor has many roles - You can argue these, but I think there's good biblical grounds for the following job description: 1) teaching/preaching; 2) Caregiving - visitation, counselling, comforting, taking care of people's needs; 3) Performing rites of passage, such as weddings, baptisms, etc.; 4) Administration; 5) Serving as an ambassador of the church to the community and to the world. 6) Maintaining a strong relationship with Christ Jesus and understanding of the scriptures.

Have you ever had a female teacher in school? Have you ever had a female caregiver? A female nurse? A female counsellor? A female social worker? Have you ever had a female secretary? a female wedding planner? Have you heard of female ambassadors?

I would answer yes to all of the above questions.

And this is where I am always stumped - if we can allow for women to fill all of the above roles in our everyday lives, then why won't we allow female pastors?

And the only answer that I can come up with is that men believe women can never have a strong enough faith life, connection with God, understanding of scripture, relationship with God in general, to be able to teach. Because if we have every other skill set needed, then this is really the only reason you can give me for why women cannot teach.

I've tried, over and over again, to convince men that women should be able to teach. And I am so thankful for those men who stand up and say that women are equally valuable in the sight of God - my voice has been told to be quiet and so very few choose to listen to what I have to say, and so I appreciate you speaking out on women's behalf so that our plea is finally heard.

But I think, in the very end, that I can't win this argument through words. Perhaps I simply have to live it out. Because I have been stuck in this rut of trying to figure out what's wrong with me, instead of recognizing that God does - in fact - love me very much, as much for my womanhood or for another's manhood. And that I can teach, I can understand, I can counsel, if this is what God so desires for me.

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Chris. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." - Galatians 3:26-29

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Learning humility

It's 1 a.m. and here I am, writing a blog. I should laugh at myself for being here instead of sleeping.

Alas, I have chosen to write my few words so that I can remember them later. Hopefully, I actually do.

I've been thinking long and hard about humility and pride lately. Moreorless, I am a terribly selfish and prideful person. And I'm beginning to realize it each and every day I live my life.

And I wonder what it means to truly live in humility, because I kind of hate how it feels to be living like this.

You see, I spend so much time complaining. And yes, there are a lot of very stressful things going on right now. My life is so jam-packed that I am literally getting sick from the stress. I have never-ending assignments that boggle my mind so much that I don't even think about them to avoid having a mental break-down. And I have no job this summer, even though that means I will not graduate from school next year if I don't have one. I feel increasingly distant from my friends, and I wonder whether my family worries about the fact I barely call them except to cry or complain about the state of my stress.

And yet, in all of this, there is still so much to be happy for. I am in a master program. I am meeting cool people all of the time. I have food. I have a warm bed. I do, in fact, have friends, and am making more. I have everything I need. Actually, I have more than I need, and I should be sharing it. I have a beautiful family, and I mean beautiful in soul and in heart, I have a church family that is loving and forgiving and kind, I have people around me who care about me for who I am, not what I've done. And that's pretty awesome.

And I think this is my lesson in humility. Because when I focus on the problems in my life, then I forget about all the really wonderful things that are also going on. It's so easy to think constantly about ME, about my own problems, and get so overwhelmed that we then forget to pour into the people around us. And if I'm not doing that, if I'm not consciously dying to myself everyday, then I'm not living for Jesus anymore. I'm just living for me.

And that's not good enough.

There really is nothing worth living for apart from Christ and the blessing to share the love and truth of His kingdom with the world. Everything I've done, everything I might one day do, they're all trash. They're all meaningless - I'm not going to care about them at the end of my life. I'll care about my friends, about my family, about whether I loved people enough, about the effort I put into my friendships, about the care I gave the vulnerable, the depressed, the stressed, the broken-hearted.

So here I am.

Admitting to you that I am a screwed up, recovering sinner - as Shane Claiborne says - and I am making the journey alongside the Church to meet Jesus. And I will try my hardest to love you. I will try to forget my momentary troubles and press on towards the goal of what calls me heavenward. And I will remember that I am not alone in my struggles, and share the load.

Well... I'm working on it.

The first test of a truly great man is his humility. By humility I don't mean doubt of his powers or hesitation in speaking his opinion, but merely an understanding of the relationship of what he can say and what he can do. - John Ruskin

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Feminist Relationships

"I'm sure more than one woman has met a male feminist who seems a little too preoccupied with our safety, a little too willing to jump in and rescue us, a little too into the narrative of the vulnerable woman and the man who's here to show her he's not like those "other guys." Gross. Women need men who want to work as our equals and helpmates, not our protectors and guardians." - Tracy Moore, "What do we want from male feminists?," 28 Feb. 2013. Jezebel.

- I love this quote, and think it's something both male and women need to learn. -

Women - you don't need prince charming to save you, you don't need a man to open the door for you, you don't need a man to work to provide for you. You are a capable, beautiful, and empowered individual, who can live to her fullness in Christ and in Him alone.

Men - stop patronizing us. We are not weak, we are not victims, we are not little or stupid. We are not the same, but that differences do not imply inequality. We are strong in who we are, and you need to respect us as your equals and partners, not your little girls or protectors. We love you guys too - you are beautiful creations of God, but let us spread our wings and be fully who we are as women of Christ too. Some of that means not stepping in to save the day, and empowering us to work out our own problems.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The ground is even at the foot of the cross

N. T. Wright said, "the ground is even at the foot of the cross."

I'd like to believe this is true. That I can stand before Jesus and be fully known and fully loved and fully capable of being used by him for the church. But I often feel as if someone is digging holes beneath my feet, because they don't like the fact I was born a woman.

It's kind of hard for me to understand. You see, I can't really change that I have ovaries and my breasts are larger than a man's. I can't change the fact that I have more estrogen than someone else. And in fact, I don't really want to change those things - they make me unique. They are part of who I am as a woman, and I'm not ashamed of them. I'm proud of them, really.

But the church seems to keep telling me that these things make me less valued by God than a man. That I am not capable of teaching men. Sure, you can quote me this verse or that verse. I know them all, and I still don't buy the argument. Instead, I ask myself whether we are trying to duplicate what the New Testament says down to the letter or whether we read it according to the spirit of the passage, asking God for the wisdom to apply the principal of the message to our context today.

So here's my run down for you:
- Genesis:
  • Eve wasn't present when God gave the command to not eat of the tree, making her more susceptible because of an indirect command
  • Creation order doesn't indicate primacy or importance - in fact, the word for "helper" used for Eve is the same word applied to God later in the Psalms as a saviour or rescuer
  • It was part of the Fall that men rule over women -> it's part of the curse, and it is wrong. It's not something we should champion, but rather, something we should try to overcome.
-Galations 3:28:
 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
  • Again, there should be unity in the church, not hierarchy. We are all one in Christ, and in him, we are a new creation. "The old has gone, the new has come." Part of this new kingdom is recognizing our equality before Christ.
-Romans 16:
  • Junia - the apostle. This is a woman. And she is an apostle. Look it up. Or hear this talk by N.T. Wright.
- 1 Timothy 2:11-15:
  • learning in quietness and full submission is good teaching for anyone who is just learning and hearing the Torah - women hadn't had the opportunity to hear instruction before
  • Jesus welcome women into his circle of disciples - he wants them to learn directly, unlike before. A generation of women  must learn before they can claim authority - Paul's telling them he WANTS them to learn.
  • Be patient and gracious until you learn. Remember what happened to Adam and Eve, who had indirect experience of God's word. This is still what was happening at that point.  
And there is the first part of my argument on why the ground is even at the foot of the cross. See N. T. Wright on Women's Service in the Church as well for further reading.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Reaffirming our identity

I've been thinking lately about getting a tattoo.

If my family is reading this, then they need not worry, because I called the tattoo parlour and they wouldn't do what I wanted them to do.

Nonetheless, let me explain. I've been drawing a small cross on my wedding ring finger for the last few months as a reminder. A necessary one for me, in fact. It's a reminder, a small reminder of who I am, to what kingdom I belong, and for what purpose I am here. 

You see, I often get lonely. I want to define myself by what others think of me. I want others to like me, to have friends, to be accepted. Because I tend to make "acceptance" and "relationships" an idol by which I define myself. When someone tears me down, I tear myself down, because I haven't received the affirmation I need to ensure that my identity is secure.

But it's not healthy. And I know that, even though I still struggle with it. 

That small cross on my finger helps remind me of who I really am. A beloved child of God. And He really loves me and wants the best for me. And I'm so undeserving of that love, and hope that in some way, through my joy in life and the love I try to give to others, that I show them what He means to me.

And that, my friends, should be enough.

Because that relationship is the only one that will never change. God is always faithful to me. And in Him, I find the true purpose of my life, and the only reason for my life. Everything else in my life changes. My personality, my friendships, my goals and dreams, the place I live, the relationships I have, my possessions, my reputation. There is really no consistency here. Nothing except Christ, and in Him, I find the only perfect relationship in my whole life, and the only perfect version of myself, despite the fact that I continue to fall short of it.

So I keep drawing that cross on my finger. To remember that no matter what, no matter what relationship I have, whether it is the view I have of myself, the relationships I have with my family, my friends, my neighbours, my roommates, my enemies, my future husband, or the stranger I meet on the street, I am a child of God, and those people I meet are also children of God. In Him, we can  find our true purpose in life and our true spiritual beings. We are servants of a God that loves every single person with a passionate, intense, ever-burning love, and I am called to carry the burdens of the people around me.

So here I am. Lost to the world, found in Christ.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Carry the load of sin

In Luke 11:37-54, Luke records the words of Jesus while he is attending dinner at the house of a Jewish expert in the law. It is a harshly beautiful passage, where Jesus reminds these leaders and experts in law about the very heart of God and his utmost desires for his people.
It is harsh, because Jesus condemns and insults these elders for their hypocrisy, and it is beautiful, because he reveals just a little of God's unfathomable love and heart for his people.

Let me highlight some of the verses:
(v. 40-41) "Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you."
(v. 42) "Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God."
(v. 46) "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not life one finger to help them."
(v. 52) "Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering."

I read this passage, and I question first myself, because I wonder how many times I have cast judgment on someone else, thought myself superior to someone else, or in some way, made someone feel like they should feel guilty about something they've done, when I deal with the sins of pride, greed and selfishness just by doing so. I am like the Pharisees in this way.

When Christ asks us to take up our cross and follow him, he's asking us to die to ourselves. To take on the burden of the world's sin, to bear it and journey alongside Christ in such a way that the world can know the very love of God through our actions.

We can do a whole bunch of really good things and never actually know God. We can seem like great, wonderful, nice people in the eyes of the world, and be the worst of sinners in the eyes of Christ, if we refuse to recognize that we are all at the mercy of the cross, first carried for us, and which Christ asks us to carry for others.

We cannot demand perfection in others, because it is something that none of us can ever live up to. And if Christ, the only perfect one to ever live, died for the imperfect outcasts, the neglected, the sinful, the hypocrites, the criminals, the enslaved, the poor, the ones that were never accepted by the church but beloved by him, how much more should we be willing to carry the burdens of sinners in reciprocation of a mercy that can never be deserved nor repaid! This is, perhaps, the very definition of compassion, and it is a higher calling than any form of charity or fundraiser you could ever put together.

Here is the perhaps the greatest purpose of the church. To carry the burden's of the lost, of the sin-full, of the poor, of the wanting, of the questioning, in humility and in love for the ones that God refuses to give up on. We can never fall into the belief that somehow, Christ loves us more than anyone else on this planet. He is filled with overflowing love for each and every person on this Earth - there is an unending, abounding love that is indescribable and uncontainable within the bounds of our human lives.

God is in endless pursuit of the lost. As he describes in the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son, we see a God who never fails to seek us out, to pursue us, to shout our names in the hopes that we hear him and come to see His radiant face. And is he ever excited when we finally find him. What love is found in Him that day!

Can you feel it?! It makes me so excited. And moreso to make sure that each and every person is so aware of his unfailing love. Of his pursuit. Of his desire for them to know Him.

Yet we must all rid ourselves of the Pharisee within us. We are only a hindrance when we refuse to recognize the people around us for the immense worth they have in God's sight. When we treat them as anything less than the most precious possessions, then we are not loving them with God's love. We must die to this selfishness, to the worldly values and perspectives, and let God's love radiate throughout our bodies into every aspect of our lives. His Holy Spirit will abound in every word you say and every deed you do. Let God's compassion and love guide you in your week. 

Christ in this church can do it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Where two or three are gathered...

Matthew 18:30 (ESV) "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."

Clarissa Pinkola Estes wrote one of my all-time favourite passages, "You were made for this." In it, she compares each person to a great ship, and life to the lakes and oceans upon which we travel. 

We face many storms and gales, she writes. The winds of life catch and shake our sails, weakening our will to move forward. The lumber composing the prow and rudder are worn down with the thrush of the sea's mighty waters. 

Yet, she says, we are not alone. 

There are other ships out on the sea with us, and they are signalling to us. The trees that built the ship come from a larger forest. We, together, are built from these, and we cannot give up in the tenth or the hundredth gale.

Estes passage reminds me of this beautiful - and very often told - story in the gospel of Luke, where the disciples are sailing across a lake to Gerasenes, and they run into this massive storm.

Let's all think of a movie with an epic shipwreck storm scene. Pirates of the Caribbean comes to mind, although I'm not quite sure why. I think there is a storm during the scene with the Kraken.. 

Nonetheless, there's some serious rain, some serious wind, some serious stormage going on, to the point that the disciples think they're on their death beds. They run downstairs and shout, "Master! Master! We're going to drown!" I can just imagine these men, drenched to the bone, hair in all directions, coming down to figure out an escape route to abandon ship. 

It's makes for an even funnier scene because they had to wake up Jesus. Whether he was startled, yawning, or stretching as he awoke, he simply responds to their panicked pleas, "Where is your faith?" 

And he commands the water and winds to stop, and they do. 

I don't know how many times you've seen someone do that, but I've seen it a grand total of four times. 

I'm kidding.

But it does show the true character and persona of Jesus. Only the creator of the universe could control the elements.  And the apostles must have realized this, for they say, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?"

I think it's a good lesson for us though. Just like that storm the disciples went through on the lake, we have a whole bunch of difficulties and hardships that we face throughout our life. We feel overwhelmed, we feel burnt out, we feel alone and scared and helpless. 

But here's the catch: God is with you. You are not alone, and he will help you through the challenges of life. All we need to do is have faith. 

This is not to say that everything will always work out or that we will always have a perfect happy ending. Only that you are not alone while you go through it. And I could ask for little more than that.

Estes ends her piece on a particularly poignant note that I think concludes much better than I could ever have:
"In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for."

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year Resolutions

I am adopting Shane Claiborne's New Year's resolutions again. I've changed them to reflect the changes I need most in my own life right now too, but I credit him for the heart behind each of these. Here's to 2013, a year to put others before myself. I tried to do these last year, but am actively going to pursue each of these during each of the twelve months of the year.

12. Do something nice that no one knows about.

11. Spend more money on other people than I spend on myself.

10. Love my enemies. Do good to those who hate me, bless those who curse me, pray for those who mistreat me. Actively pursue what is true, honourable, just, pure, noble, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy in my relationships with "enemies," family, and friends. Remember that we all stand under Christ's grace. Love others as I would like them to love me.

9. Get involved with an organization that is actively working to empower the most vulnerable in my community.

8. Love a few people well, remembering that what is important is not how much we do but how much love we put into doing it.

7. Write a letter to someone to whom I need to say thank you. Write another letter to someone I need to ask to forgive me.

6. Track down someone I disagree with and take them for coffee or have them for a meal. Listen to them.

5. Compliment someone I have a hard time complimenting, and mean it.

4. Learn a new life skill with a friend - pottery, canning vegetables, etc.

3. Pause before every potential crisis and ask “will this matter in 5 years?”

2. Get outside often and marvel at things like fireflies, snowflakes, shooting stars and seeing my breath in the cold.

1. Believe in miracles. And live in a way that might necessitate one.